Andy Smith and Carmen Elle, together known as Army Girls, began their musical love making, uh, lovely music making journey in 2010, when they wrote and recorded their debut EP Close To The Bone (Blocks Recording Club) with producer Ben Cook, of the Toronto hardcore band, Fucked Up. Not a bad backer for a first EP Release. Before that, and still now, the two work in other bands respectively.
On a frigid afternoon, I get cozy with the two-piece on a couch over teas at The Mascot. Read the interview, pretty much as it went down, next.
Tell me how you guys met and formed Army Girls.
Carmen: We met in 2008. Andy moved from Coberg to Toronto and was living in a house with his bandmates. I went over to learn a spice cover for some random show at Rancho Relaxo and I loved him and his drumming. So a couple years later I called him up and asked him to be in a band with me.
Andy: I thought, ‘eh, why not.’
So, you ditched your old band and formed a new one?
Andy: No, no, I mean you can more than one band. we both have more than one band right?
Carmen: Yah, right now I’m in Donlands and Mortimer, and Andy’s in Heart Beat Hotel. I originally asked him to play one show with me and then I had him on like a contract, so every show I had, I would call him and eventually we just got a band name.
How did you come up with the name?
Andy: I remember last August we played at the great hall, and that’s when Carmen brought it up that we should come up with a band name and we tried to get one for that show but we couldn’t think of one.
But why Army Girls? I thought you guys were going to be well…
Carmen: …two chicks? Yah people always send us emails and they’re like ‘hey ladies’!
Andy: I don’t mind that though
Carmen: Yah I don’t either. I saw a hot girl on the street with a flat top and an army jacket and I thought ‘OK, Army Girls.’
Best gig so far?
Andy: Shit. I mean every show we play, that’s always the best one.
Carmen: I liked our CD release one..
Andy: Yah the release show that was probably the most memorable
Carmen: It was our first head lining show. It was really nice. But it was stressful, like hosting a party, you know?
Andy: But then by the end of it there was a lot of support so it was a really good feeling.
Carmen: it was the first gig we ever played that we had an album to sell which makes a huge difference for a lot of bands.
You guys have like five songs on your album, did you start out charging for your music? Or did you just put them out for download..or..
Carmen: They were originally we released as singles one after the other, as free downloads, and then when we signed to Blocks which is our label they signed us at sort of the 11th hour when we were releasing the album, like they came on board a few weeks before we told press we were gonna release it, and then they manufactured physical copies. We were just going put it online and be like “there, it’s out!”
Would you say it’s better to have a label ?
Andy: There’s more reach out. It spreads farther..
Carmen: They have more inroads to places. They are way better with things like getting us into iTunes. We wouldn’t of known how to do that.
Are you guys going on tour any time soon?
Andy: Well there are plans for things like that in the New Year.
Carmen: We definitely are going on tour, we just haven’t booked one yet.
Any other people you want to bring into the band?
Carmen: I don’t know. It kind of depends on how the next record sounds, like when we record it. If we want it really full, then we’ll have to add somebody else probably, just so that it doesn’t sound totally different from the album when we play live.
Andy: Yeah we’d probably still play two piece shows here and there, but if we were to build we’d have to bring those people with us.
Carmen: Also, aesthetically, I think being a two piece just looks really clean. We kind of dress the same and that’s kind of hard to find in a band.
What’s the relationship between you guys? are you dating?
Andy: Uh musically we’re dating. i often think that making music to someone is sort of like, in a way kind of like making love to them.
Andy: So you know, but yah we are currently seeing other people.
Carmen: I like when it’s ambiguous though.
Andy: Yah i mean we could date. we could just be hiding it.
Carmen: There’s tension.
How is that creative kind of process between you guys? I know it’s so different from band to band.
Carmen: The thing that’s unusual about Andy and i is that it’s really easy. A lot of other bands really labor over what to put into a song and how to write it and .. with us its like I play it once and he’s like OK it’s just like, it’s there.
Andy: Yah I don’t know what it is . Is it because it’s two piece? I don’t know. Because every other band I’ve been in ..
Carmen: It just takes so long..
Andy: Maybe it’s just because it’s two people it’s like “yes or no.”
Carmen: Yah and then maybe I’ll add like one thing and he’ll add one thing and then it’s like perfect.
Andy: It’s sort of, it’s comforting to know that we can write song an literally have the confidence to play it.
Carmen: The next day!
Andy: Or at the next show …
Who in the Toronto music scene are you guys excited about?
Carmen: My old band Austra I’m happy for because they are doing really well. One Hundred Dollars, they’re really good too and Andy’s band Heart Beat Hotel they are releasing something at the end of the month [November]. It’s gonna be a good show. *looks encouragingly at andy* “yah?”
Andy: Yah. We got the 12 inch record its pretty crazy…
Carmen: Yah 180 gram eh? fuck?
If you could work with anyone, who would it be?
Carmen: Are we talking astronomical best case scenario? or like slightly realistic?
Well you can give me both..
Andy: Joni Mitchell, maybe?
Carmen: I would pick Bjork as my top ’cause she’s ridiculous.
Andy: Yah, if she produced a single or something..
Carmen: Oh fuck I don’t even know I would not be able to work. Like ahhhh. And I really like what St. Vincent is doing right now…
Have you guys been to Iceland?
Carmen: Not yet,
Carmen: Did you go for the music fest?
No, but I’ve heard it’s A mazing
Andy: Well how could it not be?
Carmen: A lot of my friends went and couldn’t believe it – one day. It’s on the list.
Let’s just talk about like – i don’t know, music reality shows. you know ‘em, right?
Both: Yah, of course
How do you feel about that kind of rise to fame in the music industry- most bands have to tough it out for years before, anything really happens …
Andy: Well I don’t know, I don’t really think about it. I think it’s all about the path that you take. I mean, it doesn’t really affect what I want to do or my music. There is always going to be these groups of people that enjoy that kind of thing..
Carmen: Yeah but those shows are strange. It almost seems like buying a car from a used dealer and it’s a lemon. Like it runs for 10 miles and then it breaks down because since all of the major labels like collapsed, like even EMI was just bought out recently, all that people know how to do is pump three million dollars into the first album that a reality tv show winner makes, and then don’t follow up. They drop them after that and they are kind of on their own like sink or swim. And no body knows what to do at that point, because they haven’t been prepared for it, so it’s like crazy. It’s such a different thing like people who pay their dues and people who don’t pay their dues have totally different careers and I kind of like, I kind of feel for the reality tv people, because they kind of get screwed over. Like so do we, but in a different way,
Carmen: Because it’s much more of a gamble. It’s a total lottery, like you work and work and the pay off is often not immediately great, and then you’re usually broke and starving for like a decade before anything happens really.
Andy: but that does help with the writing.
Carmen: Yah [Carmen writes full time]
Andy: That’s what people want.
Where are you getting your… I hate to say this word, but ‘inspiration’ or whatever, for your lyrics…for the writing?
Carmen: It’s mostly fear and loneliness or the fear of being alone.
Oh. Were you like an only child or something?
Carmen: yeah! exactly! haha. good call.
In terms of Toronto as a music scene, not just your genre, but other acts, are you guys feeling it?
Both: Yah, absolutely.
Andy: Toronto has a beautiful music scene.
Anything you don’t like about it?
Andy: Probably nothing really worth mentioning.
Carmen: Yeah… I actually really like Toronto right now. I’m going to write a…well I would like to write a book one day, about this decade in Toronto’s music scene because I think it’s so interesting how many people are collaborating in different ways. I’m trying to archive little now magazine clips but it’s really tedious…
So what’s next..what’s the big secret news?
Carmen: Do you want to tell her the secret news?
Andy: Ummmm.. I can’t think of secret news other than Daniels show… but we have three shows next week..
Carmen: I was gonna say, secretly, you’re a woman!
Andy: Oh yah, true. And that secretly you’re a man?
That’s going in.
Andy: Yah you can tell them.
Carmen: So but seriously we wanna tour this record and we’re also working on a full length which is gonna come out next year.
Andy: At least we’ll get it done next year, we’ll see what happens and what opportunity will arise from it.
Carmen: yeah, I mean we want get a music video as soon as possible, and we’re waiting to hear back from a grant right now. You know…
Any ideas on how that might look like?
Carmen: Yeah the concept was developed by the director and it was really interesting actually we are wiping our faces and we melt into each other – its very hard to explain.
Andy: Yeah very hard, but it will be an intriguing watch ..if it happens.
Carmen: If it happens.
Carmen: Eventually, yah.
The Greater Goods Co.
BLOCKS RECORDING CLUB
and Army Girls. http://armygirls.tumblr.com/
Photos by Katie Sadie